It's often forgotten that when Shaquille O'Neal first bestowed one of basketball's great nicknames on Paul Pierce, his exact words were: ""Take this down. My name is Shaquille O'Neal and Paul Pierce is the motherfucking truth. Quote me on that and don't take nothing out."
For obvious reasons, most newspaper reporters were unable to oblige Shaq's request, but were there ever a time to retroactively honor it, that time is now. Yesterday Pierce reminded us for the eleventy gazillionth time that he's the best Celtic since Bird, and as Bob Ryan notes in today's Globe, the greatest pure scorer the team has ever had. There are only a handful of guys who've ever played basketball who are capable of the sort of performance Pierce had yesterday, and amazingly two of them were on the court at the same time. Needless to say, these are the players we remember. Paul Pierce hasn't always been perfect during his ten seasons with the Celtics but more often than not he's been close, and few Boston athletes have put up with more bullshit criticism and false accusations of failure than the Celtics' captain. No matter what he's done it's never been enough for some people, even though Pierce has spent the vast majority of his time here playing his heart out for terrible teams, often lifting them to heights they have no business achieving. For his troubles he's been frequently and inexplicably characterized as selfish, immature, malcontented, and just generally not Larry Bird. Yesterday should prove once and for all that he deserves our highest respect, but the fact of the matter is that he always has. For all of the time that's been spent focusing on what Paul Pierce is not we've tended to lose sight of what he is: namely, the sort of player who will play through pain to score 41 points in a Game 7, refusing to let his team lose the most important game of their season. That, my friends, is all one can ask for from a team captain.